Good news came in yesterday from our International Union on the issue of pension reform:
Our Teamsters DOC retirement committee met last week in Olympia to look at policy options.
A group of members who attended the DOC contract signing in Olympia last week spent a few minutes celebrating on the steps of the State Capitol then got straight to work.
Their goal? To evaluate retirement benefits and make policy recommendations for Teamsters at the Washington State Department of Corrections.
It's a challenging job given the convoluted nature of pension politics and the potential impact pension reform could have on the State budget, but all were in agreement: The work needs to get done.
"Retirement is something at DOC that needs to be looked at," said Jeannette Young, a classification counselor at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. "We work one-on-one with inmates and it's a highly stressful environment."
"We are committed to working to tackle this difficult issue."
The current DOC retirement system has many corrections staff working longer than they should, which can compromise staff safety inside the prisons.
"Many people are forced to stay on too long because they need to maintain their medical benefits," said Shawn Piliponis of the Larch Corrections Center. "This can affect response times and the ability to assist in disturbances."
After a round of introductions, the 21-member DOC Retirement Committee focused on brainstorming improvements they'd like to see. Ideas included improving post-retirement healthcare benefits, reducing the penalty for early retirement, and making PSERS available to everyone, among others.
Now the hard part begins. The next step requires researching what is fiscally and politically feasible and what would have the greatest impact on the membership as a whole. It also requires educating members and engaging them around the issue. Clearly, people are concerned about their retirement and would like to see improvements. The trick is getting folks involved.
The committee agreed to meet on an ongoing basis to develop short and long-term goals. Once viable options are on the table, the group also plans to survey the membership to see what ideas we can coalesce around.
"Corrections work is inherently stressful and dangerous," said Michelle Woodrow, our union's President and Executive Director, who is helping to lead the committee. "We are committed to working to tackle this difficult issue so that all of our members at the DOC can retire with dignity."
To learn more about your current retirement benefits, please visit the Department of Retirement Systems. You can learn about health care options in retirement here. If you are interested in participating on our Teamsters Retirement Committee, contact Political Director Dustin Lambro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Congress has finally acknowledged what Teamsters have been saying for years…there is a pension crisis in this country and Congress must resolve it to protect workers and our economy.
While the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust (WCTPT), which provides retirement benefits to many members of Teamsters 117, is on strong financial footing, other pension plans around the country are in need of immediate relief.
That was the message delivered this October by representatives and trustees of the WCTPT at a training for union officers, union staff, and rank-and-file Teamster leaders from across the West.
Thanks to the activism of Teamsters in the room and across the country, Congress has recently set up a Joint Select Committee to work towards a solution to ensure the solvency of multi-employer pension plans.
We urge the Committee and all of our Representatives and Senators in Congress to reject the GROW Act, which would permit draconian cuts to workers’ benefits and subject retirees to devastating cuts to their pensions.
For pension reform that protects workers, our union is supporting the Butch Lewis Act (H.R. 4444/ S. 2147). Butch Lewis provides a path to financial health for troubled pension plans, alleviates pressure on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and ensures that current and future retirees receive all of the benefits that they've earned.
Take Action to Protect Worker Pensions Now! Reach out to your Senators and Representatives in Congress and urge them to support the Butch Lewis Act. The more bi-partisan support the legislation garners, the more likely it is to be adopted by the Committee.
Union officials, representatives, and members from around the West gathered to learn more about the power of the Teamsters pension plan.
It’s one of the most secure, well-funded defined benefit pension plans in the country. The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan, commonly known as the Teamsters pension, provides retirement security to over 200,000 active participants in 13 Western states.
Last week, representatives of the pension, including plan trustees, provided a day-long training for Local Union officers, representatives, and rank-and-file leaders from across the West. The goal was to familiarize the group with resources, better assist members, and succeed in negotiations.
The agenda delved into the history of the plan, an overview of the plan’s website, field support, effective bargaining techniques, and the advantages of the plan as compared to a 401(k).
Matt Collins, a shop steward at Fred Meyer, was one of the Local 117 members in attendance. “I was able to get critical information about the pension that will help me better serve my fellow Teamster brothers and sisters,” he said.
"I was able to get critical information about the pension that I can take back to the shop floor..."
Another member who joined in was Anthony McKinney, a shop steward at SuperValu. McKinney, together with fellow bargaining committee members, just finished negotiating pension increases in their contract.
“It’s important to get information out to the younger generation,” he said. “There is an information gap with people who only see the now-factor of life and may not be thinking about the future of their families. I will bring this back to my facility and become an advocate to make sure that all of us fully understand how important it is to keep the pension rates going up from contract to contract.”
James Borsum, who joined our Local's rep staff last year, said he was grateful for the training as well: “I get a lot of questions on the shop floor about how our pension compares with other pension plans. Fortunately, I can report back to our members that our pension is in great shape and what we need to do to keep it strong for the future.”
The Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Plan is managed by a Board of Trustees and administered by Northwest Administrators. If you want information about your estimated benefit under the plan, you can set up a personal pension appointment by calling Diana McDowell at 206-441-7470. To set up a pension meeting for you and your co-workers, talk to your union representative.
Three UNFI Shop Stewards, Hamilton Lancaster, Dottie Dunthorn and Catalino Brown, helped achieve this historic contract.
On Saturday, Teamsters who work at UNFI voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new contract. It includes a key provision never before present in their collective bargaining agreement – a pension.
Hamilton Lancaster, a Shop Steward at UNFI who fought for this historic contract, mentions that they “are the first UNFI facility in the country to get a pension. It is something that the company has sworn up and down they will never ever give us.”
"I’ve been there for 12 years and the company said — you’ll never get a pension."
Five years ago, workers at UNFI stood together courageously in a nine-week strike to demand better wages and benefits. This time around, Teamsters presented a unified front to fight for financial security after their retirement.
Pension, however, is not the only improvement this contract achieves. It also includes caps on mandatory overtime that will improve quality of life for members. “It’s huge because we won’t be as burnt out,” says Catalino Brown. “We’ll get our days off and will be well-rested to come in and be motivated to work.”
Voting took place in two separate locations, at the Teamsters Hall in Tukwila and in Spokane. Both groups welcomed the new contract. As Lancaster sums it up, “We got some bargaining unit work protections in there, better vacation language, and everybody got a raise and a retro out of it. I think that made it a pretty good deal for a lot of people.”
Local 117 Vice President Marcus Williams, the lead negotiator for the union, praised the work of the bargaining committee.
"They did a fantastic job throughout the negotiations," he said. "The entire membership at UNFI stood strong for retirement security and other improvements. It shows what we are able to achieve when we stand together."
This victory was one of the two contracts ratified this weekend. Republic Services drivers won a long standing fight for a contract granting them parity in wages and working conditions with the garbage drivers. John Scearcy, Teamsters Local 117 Secretary-Treasurer, highlights the importance of these wins.
"Our union's trend of achieving historic contracts shows that our new approach of building contract campaigns is strong. Our focus on engaging and activating the true power-base of our union, the members, is working."
Caps on mandatory overtime for better work - life balance.